It can be a risk to mention the “E” word to a person suffering from depression. Yes, that one. Exercise. Of course that’s the last thing we feel like doing – but what we need to realize is that is our depressed brain talking to us. When we move our bodies, we can move or shift our mindset.
We have all heard the good arguments for regular exercise, but let’s just take a moment to refresh our memory:
Physical Benefits – it produces greater energy and vitality, it improves our sleep and often promotes a desire to eat healthier food and the proper amounts that our bodies need.
Mental Benefits – promotes greater clarity, improved ability for concentration, and better planning and decision making. It also improves our mood, reduces anxiety and stress and improves self-esteem.
Social Benefits – doing an activity outside, joining a class or meeting up with a friend to do an activity promotes interaction with others even if we are not actually having verbal conversations with others at this time.
A snowball effect occurs and just one of the benefits mentioned above can help us to spiral upward towards feeling better. So, how do we get ourselves off the couch?
~ Pick an activity that you really enjoy – swimming, walking, badminton, jogging, Frisbee, hiking, biking, yoga, skateboarding...it does not have to be a gym workout or boot camp. Just move your body.
~ Do an activity with someone else. A partner, a friend, a personal trainer or a dog (I’ve found cats are not very cooperative, but let me know if you’ve had an experience otherwise).
~ Make a reasonable commitment that you will stick to and schedule it into your week. If need be, start small at once, twice or three times a week so that you will have success.
~ Reward yourself after you exercise. Watch that TV show, have that cookie, enjoy a hot soak in the bubble bath.
The Dopamine System – this is what controls aspects of pleasure, concentration and decision making. And yes, you’ve got it, the dopamine system is positively affected by exercise.
This is not to say that a bit of exercise will make it all better, but it can be very helpful in combination with other tools, strategies, lifestyle choices and sometimes, medication and counselling.